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Jen sails into peaceful waters thanks to OneArk and Fusion21 partnership.

When Jen Ratcliffe’s (pictured, below) apprenticeship in Project Management was complete, the horizon ahead was more cloudy than clear.

The 24-year old had already secured a degree in Education Studies and was looking for her next challenge when she discovered the Back on Track programme.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do after my apprenticeship finished. I was put in touch with Fusion21 who asked me to come in for a chat. That was when I found out about the Back on Track programme and discovered what it could do. I was really excited.”  

Led by investment charity OneArk and delivered by Fusion21 Ltd, the initiative consists of a supported employment package for residents in and around Knowsley, and sees them being placed in local businesses.

Dave McGuinness, Community Regeneration Consultant at Fusion21, comments: “Back on Track enables individuals to gain access into the workplace setting. The aims being to enhance their existing skills, learn new skills, improve self confidence, experience working in a new environment and improve the chances of securing employment in the future. 

“Businesses and charitable groups across Knowsley and Merseyside can grow their business via Back on Track’s assisted funding mechanism. This enables opportunities to be created within their business and suitable candidates are then matched with the employer while we look after all of the administration.

“We were delighted to help Jen with a new laptop, initial training and the relevant paperwork to help prepare her for the workplace.”

The lead employer during the support placement period is Fusion21, whose role it is to not just place individuals but liaise with the employing business. Fusion21’s own recruitment agency, Beyond Recruitment, undertakes the Human Resources element and issues contracts, records holidays and pays the individual.

Jen’s first opportunity secured through the programme turned out to be divine. 

 “I was asked if I was interested in a position with Volition, the volunteer programme for Manchester and Liverpool Cathedrals and it seemed really interesting,” says Jen. 

She was appointed as Assistant Employment & Volunteering Coordinator for a fixed period of six months at Liverpool Cathedral. “It is a new charity created out of a pilot programme at Manchester Cathedral. It works in partnership with local employers, to test whether a combination of volunteering, coaching and training can achieve employment outcomes for individuals.”

Jen has brought into play her degree and has been teaching people job hunting skills including CV preparation, on dedicated ten week courses. “I love it, just getting to meet and work with people from all walks of life and they really appreciate your guidance.”

Referrals are made to Volition from job centres and other agencies to assist job seekers in developing skills and honing their job hunting techniques

Kerry Cullen, Investment and Operations Manager for OneArk, said: ‘’We’re immensely proud to see another Knowsley resident gaining full time employment through the Back on Track programme.  What’s even better is that the opportunity is paid at living wage and is a sustainable job which has massive social impact.

“The Back on Track programme works with local employers who have real job opportunities and matches local people to that opportunity whilst offering additional support in the early days if needed.   Every project undertaken by the One Ark team is designed to bring together partners in collaboration, working together to create measurable and economic results for those around us, something I think we’ve certainly achieved with this programme.”

Jen has another string to her bow, having recently completed sailing a tall ship, the Pelican of London, from Dublin to Glasgow with a team of20 crew on board, made up of 6 engineers from Peel Ports and 14 people from New Charter Group, which runs housing associations in Manchester and Bolton.Over 170 apprentices from businesses across the UK took part in total in the event which is organised by the Merseyside Adventure Sailing Trust (MAST).

“It was part of the Apprentice Ship Cup, racing tall ships up and down the west coast of the UK and across the Irish Sea. I did it when I was an apprentice and it was great to be asked back during my current work with Back on Track to mentor other apprentices on board. It was just fantastic. If Fusion21 hadn’t helped steer me to Volition I wouldn’t be doing something which is really rewarding as you are always helping people.”

Dave McGuinness adds the final word: “We always want the Back on Track programme to convert opportunity into long term jobs and Jen has certainly ticked all of the boxes in proving what an inspiring and valuable member of a team she can be.”